Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays from the Choc Lit Team and our Santa Clauses!

Merry Christmas from Team Choc Lit!

Merry Christmas everyone, Happy Holidays! Thank you for all your fabulous support in 2015. We look forward to sharing more exciting releases and fabulous Choc Lit books with you in the new year.
Love from the Choc Lit Team x
(Lyn, Lusana, Jane O, Liz, Jane E, Marie, Jessamy) 

And now a message from our Choc Lit Santas: :)

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juliet Santa photoJuliet Archer:  ”As Jane Austen said in Emma, published 200 years ago this month: ‘This is quite the season indeed for friendly meetings. At Christmas every body invites their friends about them, and people think little of even the worst weather.’ I wish you all a wonderful Christmas and New Year, with lots of ‘friendly meetings’ and as little as possible of ‘the worst weather’.”

Santa - Rhoda BaxterPLEASE RELEASE ME_front150dpiRhoda Baxter: “Wish you all a fab holiday season with lots of chocolate, cake and nice warming books to read. See you next year.”

 

Zana Bell - Santa!

Fool's Gold

Zana Bell: Meri Kirihimete (Maori) everyone and many best wishes from New Zealand. May you all have a wonderful festive season. ”

 

AnnMarie Santa photo

AnneMarie Brear: “Wishing everyone a very merry Christmas, (a perfect time to read good books) and a safe and healthy 2016!”

 

 

Jan Santa photo

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Jan Brigden: “Wishing everyone a joyful, peaceful, healthy Christmas & New Year, with much festive good cheer, happy reading (and chocolate goodies aplenty!). Enjoy!”

 

Angela Britnell - Santa!

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Angela Britnell: “Wishing all of our Choc Lit readers a joyous Christmas and a wonderful New Year filled with good books!”

 

Sheryl Browne Santa!

 

9781781892350Sheryl Browne: Christmas time, mistletoe and wine … If you fancy a gorgeous hero to complete the scene, dip into scrummy Choc Lit book. Perfection. Have a lovely Christmas everyone!


You Think You Know MeClare Chase - Santa!Clare Chase: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, full of warmth and good cheer, followed by a very happy 2016.”

 

An Irish Promise

Valerie Olteanu  - Isabeall Connor - SantaLiv Thomas - Isabella Connor - Santa!Isabella Connor (Liv & Val):  Nollaig shona dhaoibh. Wishing all Choc Lit readers and their families, a wonderful Christmas, and a happy 2016.”

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Christina Courtenay - Santa!Christina Courtenay: “I would like to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! Have a peaceful, relaxing holiday hopefully with lots of time for reading! Thank you all for your support this year and here’s to a fantastic year in 2016!  Christina xxx”

Some Veil Did Fall

Kirsty Ferry - Santa!

Kirsty Ferry: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy 2016. I hope you enjoy a festive season filled with cake, chocolate and a multitude of good books! Love from Kirsty xxx”

 

9781781892206Debbie Santa photoDebbie Flint: “Wishing you sleighbells and snowflakes, mince pies andmulled wine, silent nights and holly-days, myrrh and magic moments, tinselled tots and festive pets, plus perfect peace, Christmas cheer – and to all a good night!”

 

9781781892466 Kathryn Freeman - Santa!Kathryn Freeman: “Christmas – a time to relax, to indulge. Whether you’re turkey or goose, chocolate or champagne, Christmas films or a sack full of books, I wish you all a very happy Christmas.”

 

Janet Gover - Santa!9781781892688Janet Gover: “May Christmas be a time of joy for you and yours – and I hope 2016 will be a wonderful year filled with love and laughter.”

 

 

The Highwayman's Daughter

Henriette Gyland - Santa!Henriette Gyland: “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year. May 2016 be filled with love, laughter and good books to read.”

 

Linn's Santas photo

Linn B. Halton: Wishing everyone peace, love and happiness this Christmas time, and a wonderful start to 2016! Linn x

 

 

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Liz Harris - Santa!Liz Harris: ”Wishing you everything for 2015 that you wish for yourself.  May it be a year filled with health, happiness, chocolate and, of course, books!!”

 


The Wedding Cake TreeMelanie Hudson - Santa!Melanie Hudson: 
“Wishing you love, light and oodles of laughter this Christmas.”

 

 

9781781892701Laura E James - Santa!Laura E.James: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a 2016 that’s overflowing with good health and great books.”

 

 

Magic Sometimes Happens

Margaret James - Santa!Margaret James: “Merry Christmas, readers and writers, and may 2016 be a wonderful year for you all.”

 


Impossible ThingsKate Johnson Santa!Kate Johnson: “I’d like to wish everyone a very happy festive season and offer my best wishes for the new year.”

 


Dangerous DecisionsMargaret Kaine - Santa!Margaret Kaine: “I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas whether you are spending it with family or friends, or have chosen to be on your own surrounded by chocolates, wine and good books. May I wish you both good health and happiness throughout 2016.”

 

Jane Lovering - Santa!9781781892817Jane Lovering: “Wishing everyone a happy HobNob dunking, marshmallow toasting, Tony Robinson watching day! Although if you don’t like any of these things, I wish you a Happy Christmas anyway…all the more for me! JANE X”

 

9781781892176Sally santa photoSally Malcolm: “Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas, and a New Yearfull of adventure!”

 

 

Alison May - Santa!9781781892947Alison May: “May your festive season be joyful and filled with books, chocolate and all good things. Happy Christmas one and all.”

 

 

Emma - There's No Turning BackLinda Mitchelmore - Santa!Linda Mitchelmore: “Happy Christmas to you all. I hope you will have a wonderful time, spending Christmas in whichever way you choose. I also hope there will  be a little window of time to curl up with a Choc Lit novel – or two – somewhere warm with a glass of something festive.”

Lynda Stacey Santa photoLynda Stacey: ”May your Christmas sparkle with happiness, surprises and above all else, good health. Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and a fabulous 2016  xx”

 

 

DANCE UNTIL DAWNBerni Stevens - Santa!Berni Stevens: “Wishing everyone a Perfectly Paranormal Christmas and a peaceful New Year! Happy reading! Love Berni xxx”

 

Follow a StarChristine Stovell - Santa!Christine Stovell: Nadolig Llawen! Merry Christmas one and all. Here’s wishing you everything you would wish for yourself.”

 

Romancing the SoulSarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Tranter: “Merry Xmas and a fabulous 2016 to you all!”

 

 

Never Marry a Politician!Sarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Waights: “Wishing all Choc Lit readers a fabulous Christmas and as much romance and chocolate as you can handle in the year to come.”

 

Out of Sight Out of Mind

Evonne Wareham - Santa!Evonne Wareham: “Happy Christmas – Nadolig Llawen – and health, happiness and lots of good books for everyone in 2016.”

 

Nick santa photo

Nicky Wells:  ”Frohe Weihnachten und ein Gutes Neues! ~That’s “Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year” in my native German, and I’d like to wish you both of those with all myheart. May your Christmas sparkle and may your 2016 be filled with love, laughter and happiness. Xx”

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL! 

Merry Christmas from the Choc Lit Santa Clauses!

Merry Christmas from Team Choc Lit!

Wishing all the readers, reviewers, Tasting panel members and bloggers who have supported us this year a very Merry Christmas! We look forward to sharing our 2015 releases with you all soon :) In the meantime, here are some festive messages from some of the Choc Lit Santa clauses alongside a reminder of some of those beautiful 2014 covers …

Doctor January by Rhoda BaxterSanta - Rhoda BaxterRhoda Baxter:
“Have a wonderful Christmas with lots of chocolate. May 2015 be full of laughter and more chocolate.”

 

Zana Bell - Santa!

Fool's Gold

Zana Bell:
“Sending a virtual splash of Kiwi sunshine and ice cream Christmas pudding to all our readers.”

 

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Angela Britnell - Santa!Angela Britnell:
“Merry Christmas from Nashville! I hope everyone’s Christmas stockings are full of great Choc-Lit books and plenty of good chocolate.”

Sheryl Browne Santa!Sheryl Browne:
“Christmas, the perfect time to curl up with mulled wine and Choc Lit. Have a lovely Christmas everyone. I hope all your dreams and wishes come true.”


You Think You Know MeClare Chase - Santa!Clare Chase:
“Wishing you a warm, bright and merry Christmas, and a very happy new year.”

 

An Irish Promise

Liv Thomas - Isabella Connor - Santa!Valerie Olteanu  - Isabeall Connor - SantaIsabella Connor (Liv & Val): Nollaig shona dhaoibh. “Wishing all Choc Lit readers and their families, a wonderful Christmas, and a happy 2015.

 

Monsoon Mists

Christina Courtenay - Santa!Christina Courtenay:
God Jul – I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a fabulous New Year!  Hope you have lots of time over the holidays to relax and read!”


Some Veil Did FallKirsty Ferry - Santa!Kirsty Ferry:
“Have a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful New Year. And eat lots of chocolate, obviously! Love from Kirsty xxx”

 

Do Opposites Attract by Kathryn Freeman Kathryn Freeman - Santa!Kathryn Freeman:
“I hope Father Christmas brings all our lovely readers a sack full of books – and a stocking full of chocolate. Happy Christmas and very best wishes for 2015.”

Flight to Coorah Creek

Janet Gover - Santa!Janet Gover: “I hope your Christmas is filled with the people you care most about. And that all the presents under your tree are book shaped (except for the ones that are the shape of chocolate or possibly Champagne.)”

The Highwayman's Daughter

Henriette Gyland - Santa!Henriette Gyland:
God Jul og Godt Nytår, which is the traditional Christmas greeting in Denmark where I come from!

 


Liz Harris - Santa!A Western HeartLiz Harris:
Wishing you everything for 2015 that you wish for yourself.  May it be a year filled with health, happiness, chocolate and, of course, books!!”


The Wedding Cake TreeMelanie Hudson - Santa!Melanie Hudson:

“Merry Christmas!”

 

 

Cross Stitch

Amanda James:Amanda James - Santa!
“Have a fabulous Christmas and New Year!  Here’s to a 2015 full of great stories.”

 

Follow Me Follow YouLaura E James - Santa!Laura E.James:
“Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas and a happy, healthy and prosperous 2015, filled with love, laughter and literature.”

 

Magic Sometimes Happens

Margaret James - Santa!Margaret James:
“A very happy Christmas to everyone. May magic often happen and 2015 be good to you all in every way.”


Impossible ThingsKate Johnson Santa!Kate Johnson:
“The weather outside is frightful, but our books are so delightful! Here’s wishing you all a merry Christmas and a happy new year.”


Dangerous DecisionsMargaret Kaine - Santa!Margaret Kaine:
“Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas with your loved ones, with lots of books under the tree and even some time to read one! Enjoy!”

 

How I Wonder What You Are

Jane Lovering - Santa!Jane Lovering:
So many books, so little time! Wishing you a happy and peaceful Christmas.”

 

Cora's Christmas KissAlison May - Santa!Alison May:
“Happy Christmas. I hope your festive season is filled with love, chocolate, books and merriment.”

 

Emma - There's No Turning BackLinda Mitchelmore - Santa!Linda Mitchelmore:
“Wishing all my readers – past, present, and future – a wonderful Christmas. May there be love and warmth in your home, food on your table, a glass of something to lift the spirits, joy in your heart, and a quiet corner to sit and read a good novel.”

The Wedding Proposal

Sue Moorcroft - Santa!Sue Moorcroft:
“I hope that you have a joyful and peaceful Christmas … with time to read!”

 

DANCE UNTIL DAWNBerni Stevens - Santa!Berni Stevens:
“Wishing you all a magical Christmas and a wonderful 2015. Happy reading!”

 

Follow a StarChristine Stovell - Santa!Christine Stovell:
Nadolig Llawen!  Merry Christmas from west Wales!”

 

Romancing the SoulSarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Tranter:
“Have the most wonderful Xmas and may your 2015 be chock-a-full of happiness.”

 

Never Marry a Politician!Sarah Tranter - Santa!Sarah Waights: “2014 will always have happy memories as ‘the year I published my first novel’ thanks to the lovely Choc Lit readers’ panel who were kind enough to like it.  I hope that all you Choc Lit readers have had an equally brilliant year, that Santa brings you everything on your list and that you have a happy 2015 with LOTS of reading and LOTS of chocolate. X”

Out of Sight Out of Mind

Evonne Wareham - Santa!Evonne Wareham:
“I hope everyone manages to find some time over the holiday to curl up with a good book. Happy Christmas!”

 

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ONE AND ALL! 

Kate Johnson: Three Inspirational Women

In honour of International Women’s Day, here are a couple of thoughts on three women who inspire me.

Elizabeth I. I mean I don’t think I’d want to have her round for dinner, but I do think that what she managed to accomplish is extraordinary. She was only the second female monarch England ever had, following her sister’s short reign (which was dominated by her husband). She lived in a time when a woman was really just a piece of property and no one really thought she could do much without a man to tell her what to do. Well, she proved them all wrong! She declared herself married to her country, a marriage which brought peace and prosperity for forty five years.Elizabeth_I_Armada_Portrait

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Mary Seacole. Florence Nightingale got all the glory but Mary worked just as hard and was nearly forgotten by history. As a Jamaican woman in the 1850s she was at a huge disadvantage to begin with. Trained by her mother as a nurse, but turned down by Florence’s school of nursing, she took herself off to the Crimea and set up the British Hotel for wounded soldiers. Even when this bankrupted her, she didn’t give up, and sold her memoirs to keep herself afloat. Now that’s a determined and resourceful lady.

seacole

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Buffy Summers. Oh come on, I can’t write about inspiring women without mentioning the Buffster! In movies and in books, the petite blonde is usually the monster’s first snack. Or maybe she’s nearly the snack, but is rescued by a man at the last minute. She’s just there to show us how dangerous it is to be, er, pretty and blonde, whilst manly men get on with the serious business of world-saving. Not so Buffy. She was the pretty blonde who went into the dark alley with the monster…and emerged with its head. She rescued the helpless men. She showed up on TV on Thursday nights and showed a generation of girls they didn’t have to choose between being pretty or brave or smart. They could be all three.

Kate Johnson is a prolific writer of romantic and paranormal fiction. Kate is Choc Lit’s IT_packshot webyoungest author and lives near Stansted, Essex. She is a self-confessed fan of Terry Pratchett, whose fantasy fiction has inspired her to write her own books. Kate worked in an airport and a laboratory before escaping to write fiction full time. She is a member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association and has previously published short stories in the UK and romantic mysteries in the US. She’s a previous winner of the WisRWA’s Silver Quill and Passionate Ink’s Passionate Plume award.

Her first UK debut novel, The UnTied Kingdom was shortlisted for the Contemporary Romantic Novel Category Award in 2012. It also won an online Best Book Award.

Kate’s Choc Lit novels include: The UnTied Kingdom, Run Rabbit Run and Impossible Things (February 2014).

Follow Kate on TwitterFacebook and her blog.

An interview with a hero: Kate Johnson chats to Krull the Warlord

I won’t lie to you: I’m a bit nervous about meeting Krull the Warlord. For a start, he has a reputation as a pirate, mercenary, and right evil bastard. A reputation he’s proud of. Plus, he’s completely insane: he recently rode into the Emperor’s palace on his horse. Plus, I wasn’t allowed to come here unless I agreed to be blindfolded for most of the journey, which was by boat. All I know is I’m somewhere in Krulland. Well, I’m assuming I’m somewhere in Krulland.

“Course you are,” says the man himself. “Where else is this cold?”

He has a point. It’s proper brass monkeys out there. Inside the longhouse, however, it’s toasty warm and surprisingly cosy, with kids taking lessons in one corner and women weaving in another. I’m offered a cup of hot spiced wine, which judging by the smell has been spiced with mostly vodka.

Krull the Warlord is drinking neat aquavit. He tells me to call him Kael, which is what everyone calls him around here. In the Empire his official name is so long that, “I need to start saying it five minutes before I arrive anywhere,” which is a sign of his incredibly high status. He has three victory names, which is astonishing for a man not quite thirty years old.Blog pics Kate

“Emperor pays me to wade into skirmishes and bang heads together,” he says with a shrug when I ask him how he brought peace to the Saranos Islands and subdued the Draxan riots. “Half the time my reputation precedes me enough that I don’t really have to do anything when I get there.” He looks almost disappointed about this.

He’s a big man, tall and broad as you can only be when you’ve been wielding a war hammer since you were a teenager. Kael might have trained at the Imperial Academy, as is his right as a Chosen Warrior, but as he explains, “My father thought I ought to learn early how to fight, how to take care of myself. It was always going to be my destiny to run Krulland, to take care of my country and defend my people, so when I was about eleven he sent me out into the woods by myself to learn how to survive. I learned a lot of things then, not least about how dangerous the cold is and how awful hunger is. I spend a lot of time in the winter trying to shield people from that.”

He doesn’t look like a man who worries about whether people have enough to eat. He looks like someone who might be considering whether to eat you.

I ask about his latest controversy. Is it true he adopted a slave from the New Lands and enrolled her in the Imperial Academy?

“I didn’t adopt her, no. She’s an adult. Mostly. Let’s call her my protegee. Most kids going to the Academy have some family backing, people to sponsor them and help them make contacts, which, let’s face it, is more important than actually graduating. Ishtaer didn’t have any of that stuff, and since I’m the one who found her and freed her and all that, I thought I might as well continue keeping an eye on her.”blog pics kate 2

The rumour is that she’s Thrice-Marked. For those not up on the vernacular of the Chosen, this means that she’s been given three Marks from the gods, three special gifts. Even one Mark is incredibly rare, and to have two like Krull even rarer. To have three is unheard of. At the Academy, plenty of students I talked to thought it was a hoax.

“It’s not,” says Kael shortly. “I’ve tested her Marks, and so have other senior members of the Academy. They’re genuine. She appears to be the first Thrice-Marked, and the first female Warrior, the world has seen.” Sounds like a myth or legend, I venture. “Well, it ain’t. Go and ask her yourself if you doubt me.”

I’m far, far too scared of him to doubt him.

Impossible Things is available now in paperback and as an ebook (all major platforms).

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Don’t Tell The Bride: special edition

Hold onto your hats, this…is Don’t Tell The Bride: The Untied Kingdom edition! This is the show where the groom gets the whole wedding budget, and the bride gets no say in how it’s spent.

Tonight, the pressure’s on for ex army major Will Harker, as he attempts to organise the perfect day for his bride to be Eve. For this couple, it all started when he saved her from drowning in the Thames after a paragliding accident.

“I thought she was an alien. Just dropped out of the sky with one giant wing.”

“But you still swam in after me. I could’ve been from the planet Zog.”

“We’ll, I didn’t see no bugger else doing it.”

“Oh, cheers. There’s romance for you!”

The Untied KingdomGoing out with a soldier was an alien idea to Eve, too. “He is about ninety percent scar tissue. And it’s catching. I’d never been shot at until I met him. You’re such a dangerous man, Harker!”

And will the wedding he plans be just as risky?

“Oh God. He’ll probably hold the reception in the NAAFI.”

Day one, and Harker is searching for a venue. “Can’t be in a church. Been married before. The local register office looks like a barracks I was once in that smelled of feet. Maybe not there.”

Eve has slightly higher aspirations for her dream venue. “A stately home, you know, high ceilings and antiques and sprung ballroom floors. Don’t reckon I’ll get that, though. His ex lived in a house like that. He wasn’t a fan.”

His choice of catering probably isn’t going to go over well, either. “How much? No. Food can’t cost that much. You must be bloody joking. I’ll get the pub to put some sandwiches on.”

As one fifth of the pop sensation Grrl Power, Eve got used to wearing some top designer labels. Her dream wedding dress has always been something, “Elegant. Simple. Nothing huge or frou-frou. I’ve been to some celebrity weddings where the bride looked like she was wearing a birdcage and a net curtain. That’s not for me!”

But while Eve is relaxed about her dress, the thought terrifies Harker. “There’s a wedding shop on the high street. Scares the life out of me. I’d rather get shot. I honestly would. But there’s no getting round it, is there? She can’t get married in her pyjamas. It’s an important thing, I don’t want her to think I don’t realise that. She wants a proper wedding dress. Something with, you know, frills. Lace. One of them cage type things to hold the skirt out. Yeah.”

It’s the end of week one, and Harker has got a register office that looks like an army barracks, a pub, and a dress that’s part birdcage. It must be time for the stag!

“The what? What do I want a stag for? We’re having chicken at the…oh, you mean the party. Yeah…pub, I think. That’s that sorted. What’s next?”

Er…he really is going to just go to the pub. Let’s move on, shall we? Next he needs to pick out bridesmaid dresses. “Some woman on the radio asked Eve if she was getting her bandmates back together as bridesmaids. I’d tell you what her reply was, but I’ve been told you can’t swear on telly this time of night.”

Meanwhile, Eve is about to get the first piece of news about her own wedding. “I can’t believe I have to be sent an invitation to my own wedding. That’s wrong in about…five different ways. And…oh. So is this invite. I’d say he did it in five minutes on the computer, but he doesn’t know how to use a computer.”

But he knows someone who does. “Got a mate to do ‘em with a, what d’you call it, laptop. Ridiculous, what stationery companies charge, just for a bit of paper and some fancy writing.” True enough, but there does seem to be one person he’s forgotten to invite. “What, her mother? Oh aye, that’d be perfect. Ever seen a mother of the bride punched by her own daughter?”

Now there’s one week to go, and Harker is a bit dubious about one part of his wedding prep. “She told me to get a haircut. I bloody hate getting haircuts. Look, if some bugger’s coming at my head with a blade, I’m basically going to shoot him. I don’t reckon hairdressers like that.”

It’s the day before the wedding, and Eve finally gets to see what Harker has picked out for her to wear. “Oh, you’re KIDDING me. I look like a loo roll holder!”

After weeks of preparation, the big day is finally here, and Harker is finally getting the hang of romance. “The thing is, all this girlie stuff, I completely hate it. But Eve doesn’t, and she’s the point of it all, isn’t she? It’s to make her happy. I’d do anything for her. To be honest, I’d wear the damn wedding dress if it made her happy. I, er, really hope it doesn’t come to that, though.”

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Kate’s Interview with a heroine

So today, I’ve been chatting with the heroine of my next book, Impossible Things:

What is your name?

Interesting question. I’ve been called Agnes and Jorrie and Little Witch, but I think I’m called Ishtaer. Apparently that’s too short, however, and lots of words I don’t understand have to be added to it to make a proper name. That’s what Lord Krull says.

Lord Krull?

Oh, you’ve heard of him. Even I’d heard of him, and I didn’t remember my own name. Scourge of the seas, terror of the Empire, the most feared pirate and warlord in the world? I thought he was the devil when I first met him. But then he rescued me and made me well and told me to call him Kael. I think he’s being kind. It’s very confusing.

There’s a rumour going round you’re his…well, you know, that you and he…

Oh. Yes. I’ve tried denying it but that just seems to make people believe it all the more. I’ve tried telling people that I’m not interested in Lord Krull or any other man, and I’m convinced I’m the last woman in the Empire he could ever desire, but no one believes me. So I’ll just say we shared a cabin on the voyage over the Great Sea and let people hear what they want to.

Riiiight. So is it true that you’re the first female Warrior in history? And that you’re the first person ever who’s been Chosen by the Gods not once or even twice, but three times? And that you can talk to ghosts?

I suppose I’m just full of impossible things.

Kate: It’s one way to research…

When my best friend asked if I wanted to go to Venice for her birthday, my first thought was “Ooh, I could use that in a book!” (Actually, my first thought was “Hell yeah!” followed by a quick check of my bank account, but that’s not the point here).

I’ve been toying with a new book about a love triangle between a con artist, a journalist, and a Hollywood movie star. I wanted to set a few scenes around a glamorous party, the kind where the host thinks nothing of flying a few hundred of his nearest and dearest out to somewhere amazing, hiring the Rolling Stones to perform, and serving cocktails with real diamonds in. I haven’t quite got the wherewithall to go out to Hollywood to research that (although I’ve flown into LAX, which surely counts for something) but Venice, well that’s only a few hours away, isn’t it? And I know how to order drinks in Italian.

So really, it was a research trip to discover amazing locations for glamorous Hollywood parties. I reckon a palazzo like one of these might be nice…

Palazzo on the Grand Canal

Palazzo on the Grand Canal

Ca' d'Oro from the Grand Canal

Ca' d'Oro from the Grand Canal

Only…look a little closer at that second one (the Ca’ d’Oro), and you’ll see what we didn’t expect to find. Venice might or might not be sinking, depending on who you ask, but it turns out that in December the tides get REALLY high. And that’s when fronting onto the Grand Canal isn’t quite so desirable. The loggia, the colonnaded bit at the front, is where your gondola is suppose to moor up so you can saunter straight in to your palazzo. It’s not supposed to be under several inches of water…

However, as city highways go, the Grand Canal really is a bit different than most. This is like, say, Whitehall. With boats.

The Grand Canal

The Grand Canal

And some of those pesky high tides again. Those are definitely going in the book.

The edge of St Mark's Square, rapidly disappearing under the high tide

Edge of St Mark's Square, disappearing under the Grand Canal

The upside is that for once, we could see most of St Mark’s Square without throngs of people. It’s probably never so empty as it is when it floods!

St Mark's Square, the Doge's Palace

St Mark's Square, currently the Doge's private paddling pool

I also fancy my Hollywood movie star taking home some Murano glass. Some of the chandeliers we saw were pretty epic, but then on the island of Murano itself, there are sculptures like this just dotting the streets and squares.

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If Venice did Olympic torches...

And of course, whilst it’s no longer the most cost effective way to travel, you can’t deny the gondolas are romantic.

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When Venice sparkles, boy howdy does it sparkle!

Then there’s your commute to the airport. Get on the airport bus, slog around the M25…or cross the Lagoon in a vaporetto. That’s a speedboat to you and me.

The Lagoon, with the Dolomites in the background

The Lagoon, with distant Dolomite mountains

The lagoon from the vaporetto

The Lagoon on a choppy day

I reckon that’s a few good ideas for the book!

(Pictures taken by said best friend: thanks Alysia!)

Kate’s transatlantic notes

So, some of you might know I started off my writing career with American publishers. I won a few awards across the Pond, but there’s one I’ve never cracked: the Romance Writers of America’s main award, the RITA.

Last year, I entered The Untied Kingdom and my scores were, well, mixed. Two judges gave it a perfect score, one just under that, and two thought it was utterly mediocre (how depressing is ‘mediocre’?).

So we at Choc Lit started wondering about the RITAs and what does well. Some of my favourite authors have been honoured by the award, but it’s a tough nut to crack for a British author.

“Theres not enough sex in my book!” said one friend. Well, that’s genre-dependent. Being an author of paranormal romance (as well as erotic romance under my pen name) this is a trope I’m wearily familiar with. You don’t necessarily need sex in a book to do well in the US market, in fact there are lots of popular books which keep it off the page. But American readers are pretty vocal if they feel they’ve been cheated: lots of build up and then the bedroom door closes!

Having read a few American paranormals lately (I’ve read loads and loads, just not for a while) yes, the feel seems more urban fantasy, vampires and werewolves and chicks in tight leather with swords (just look at the covers!).

It’s style as well as content, and really hard to put your finger on. The market is used to a certain type of book, as are we I suppose–I’m not sure Sherrilyn Kenyon or Loretta Chase would win a RoNA, but they’re pretty damn popular over there (Sherri doesn’t actually enter the RITAs as she says she isn’t in need of the publicity, and might as well let someone else have the chance. Sherri is an utter sweetheart. She even bought me lunch once).

I don’t know if that’s why The Untied Kingdom wasn’t right–just not paranormal enough, maybe, or perhaps they prefer clean-cut heroes whose long hair is always perfectly conditioned, who wear leather trousers without irony, and have names with extra H’s in them (ahem). I suppose a guy like Harker who has a pathological aversion to shaving, smokes like a chimney and says ‘bugger’ a lot probably didn’t seem so appealing…

Well, I like him anyway.

Kate on the faulty punchline

There’s a scene in one of The Simpsons Hallowe’en specials where Homer is trying to tell the kids a horror story and says something like, “And then she hit him with a golf club!” And they look at him, bored. “Did I mention he always played golf?” “No, Homer.” “Well, anyway, he did. And did I also mention that she was dead?” “You suck, Homer.”

(that’s me paraphrasing because I can’t remember the exact words, and I’m too lazy to look it up)

Well, anyway. I’ve finished the first draft of my next book and while I’m pleased with it, it feels a bit like Homer’s joke. The shock revelations, the lovely resolutions, the imagery and themes…well, I know what they are and why they’re so shocking or lovely or whatever–but I fear I’ve forgotten to tell the reader. They’ll get to the end and go, “So…what was that thing about the red tiger?”

I know I’ve written short stories and novellas in the past where I’ve got to the end, spellchecked and pressed Send, without redrafting. But I can’t really get away with that on a 100,000+ book, which takes place over several years and three continents of a total fantasy world. I’ve made maps of this. Maps, I tell you. And coats of arms. What’s that you say? It’s just a form of procrastination? Well, you might be right my friend, but I still need to know whether the Academy is east or west of the Tower (actually it’s north) and which side of the shield the red tiger stands on.

Still, this is what second drafts are for!

ishtaer-shield3

Now, did I mention a tiger...?

Kate’s Wednesday Hottie

(Yes, I know it’s Thursday. This is what happens when you forget to check the calendar.)

Lately I’ve been enjoying the new series of Silent Witness. Yes, it’s all a bit glossy, and I seriously doubt any pathologist has ever been as well-dressed and all-out pretty as Nikki Alexander (not to mention those Louboutins she wear to totter around the path lab), but I don’t really care, because of Nikki’s delectable colleague Harry Cunningham. He really does make a job involving the dissection of mutilated corpses seem sexy.

I first noticed him in Vanity Fair about fifteen years ago, playing the self-absorbed (and unfortunately named) George Osborne. And then last year, I wandered in to find my dad watching Silent Witness (oh great, I thought, another grisly crime drama) and he said, “Don’t you think this guy looks like a cross between Richard Armitage and David Tennant?”

Since those are pretty much my #1 and #2 crushes, I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. Still can’t.